Information of Interest, June 2012
1.DoD Facilities Drive Secure Power Technology
(www.defense.gov) – The Nation’s top energy user, the Department of Defense (DoD), is pushing commercialization of technology needed to lower costs and to keep its facilities secure, Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Installations and Environment Dorothy Robyn, PhD, said May 2012. In Fiscal 2011, the cost of electricity spent to power its 300,000 buildings – barracks, data centers, offices and hospitals – and to operate 160,000 vehicles was $4 billion per year.
As such, U.S. military installations depend almost entirely on a commercial electric grid that experts say is vulnerable to disruption. “In 2008 the Defense Science Board called us out and said, ‘Your critical missions are at risk because of the potential for disruption to the grid,’” Robyn said. Today the strategy for bolstering DoD facility energy security and innovation includes reducing demand for traditional energy, expanding supply of renewable and other forms of on-base energy, focusing directly on base security and leveraging advanced technology.
In the area of advanced technology, Robyn said DoD is uniquely positioned to overcome barriers to commercialization for some of the most potentially groundbreaking energy innovations. These include smart grids and microgrids. “I’m something of a cheerleader for microgrids because they solve a huge problem we have – namely the energy security of our bases. But, because I’ve spent much of my career working in the economics of network industries, primarily transportation and telecom, and I’ve seen what disruptive technology and competition have done in those sectors, I think we’re due for that in the utility sector,” explained Robyn.
Impediments to such emerging technologies include a highly fragmented building industry, high costs for first users of new technology and a lack of operational testing that deters potential technology adopters. “The key is to use our installations as a testbed for next-generation pre-commercial energy technology with promise. We think we have a role to play as a first user that’s justified by the huge infrastructure we have. We look at risk differently. If we try 10 things and seven of them work, we can deploy those so broadly as to make it profitable,” Robyn said.
Robyn’s team is working on advanced technology in three areas – smart and secure installation energy management, efficient integrated buildings and onsite power generation. The flagship project is in development at Marine Corps Base Twentynine Palms in California. The smart microgrid there is capable of “islanding” about one-third of the base’s total load and meets DoD cyber security criteria. In islanding, a distributed generator continues to power a location even when there is no electrical grid power from the utility.
Electrochromic windows are an example of emerging technology for efficient integrated buildings. These windows can be darkened or lightened electronically, controlling the amount of daylight and solar heat gain through the windows of buildings and vehicles. Robyn’s team is putting these windows on three sides of a building at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in southern California and will systematically collect performance data. “This is a great example of the role we can play in reducing risk,” Robyn said. Historically, the Energy Department has invested in this technology, but the windows are still very expensive. “Architecture and engineering firms are understandably reluctant to incorporate them into a new building without rigorous data on their performance,” she said. Collecting data from the test bed building at Miramar can help jumpstart the market.
Many more demonstration projects are underway at DoD facilities around the country, and some are beginning to show results despite challenges that include collecting high-quality data on building energy consumption and performance, and getting successful test bed technologies widely deployed. In the next fiscal year, DoD is investing more than $1 billion to make its U.S. installations more energy efficient. Meanwhile, the Army, Navy and Air Force have committed to adding three gigawatts of renewable energy to installations in the coming years – one of the largest commitments to clean energy in the nation’s history.
2. Standardization Roadmap for U.S. Electric Vehicle Deployment
(www.ansi.org) – The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) announced the release of a Standardization Roadmap for Electric Vehicles – Version 1.0, developed by the Institute’s Electric Vehicles Standards Panel (EVSP). The Standardization Roadmap assesses standards, codes and regulations, as well as conformance and training programs, needed to facilitate safe, mass deployment of electric vehicles and charging infrastructure in the United States.
Developed by interests in the automotive, electrotechnical and utilities industries, as well as from standards-developing organizations (SDOs) and government, the Standardization Roadmap is intended to:
- facilitate development of a comprehensive, robust and streamlined standards and conformance landscape for electric vehicles and
- maximize coordination and harmonization of the standards and conformance environment domestically and with international partners.
Available for free download, the Standardization Roadmap focuses on plug-in electric vehicles – both full-battery electric and plug-in hybrids – and the charging infrastructure needed to support them given current range limitations of plug-in EVs on battery power alone. Standardization issues that relate to consumer adoption, including EV safety, affordability, interoperability, performance and environmental impact, are considered. Support services, including training of emergency first responders, vehicle technicians, electrical installers and inspectors, as well as education of authorities having jurisdiction, building owners and consumers, are also addressed.
Targeted toward a broad audience of stakeholders, the Standardization Roadmap identifies standards, codes and regulations that already exist or are in development, as well as gaps where new or revised standards are needed, along with related conformance and training programs that respond to those needs. Included are recommendations with prioritized timelines for when standardization should occur, as well as the identification of appropriate SDOs that may be able to do the work. Harmonization efforts already underway or that may be desirable are also discussed.
The Standardization Roadmap is supplemented by the ANSI EVSP Roadmap Standards Compendium, a searchable spreadsheet, which inventories standards directly or peripherally related to each issue identified in the roadmap while also identifying related issues to which the standards potentially apply. Work to develop the Standardization Roadmap began June 2011 and eventually involved representatives from 80 leading organizations. The majority of work was carried out electronically via seven working groups focused on energy storage systems, vehicle components, vehicle-user interface, charging systems, communications, infrastructure installation, and education and training. Two plenary meetings were held to identify issues and refine an initial draft of the roadmap in a face-to-face setting.
Given the dynamic nature of standardization, and as the ANSI EVSP continues to assess the progress of standards and conformance programs and any gaps requiring further discussion, it is envisioned that the Standardization Roadmap will be periodically updated going forward. In this way, it will continue to serve as a living document to help guide, coordinate and enhance the standards landscape in support of the widespread deployment of EVs and charging infrastructure.
3. EPA, DOE Tools for Solar, Wind Energy on Contaminated Lands
(www.epa.gov) – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) have developed and launched new tools designed to test underutilized sites and contaminated land for solar and wind energy potential. The tools give local communities and landowners ways to evaluate sites for renewable energy potential without the need for technical expertise.
The alternative energy “decision trees” leverage NREL’s knowledge of renewable energy technologies and EPA’s experience in returning contaminated lands to productive use.
EPA estimates that nationwide there are approximately 490,000 sites and almost 15 million acres of potentially contaminated properties. “Opportunities to install renewable energy systems on vacant properties can be found in every community. Tapping sun and wind power at brownfield sites, rooftops, parking lots and abandoned land could provide untapped gigawatts of clean energy,” said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA’s regional administrator for the Pacific Southwest.
The City of Richmond, Calif., is serving as a pilot community for development of the tools. Positioning renewable energy on sites can increase economic value of the properties, provide a sustainable land reuse option, create local green jobs and provide clean energy for use on-site or for the utility grid. Using the decision trees, state and local governments, site owners and community members can help identify the most desirable sites for solar or wind installations from both a logistical and economic standpoint.
In addition to opportunities in cities, thousands of potentially contaminated acres in less populated areas across the country could be put to beneficial reuse with renewable energy. The tools can be used to evaluate individual or multiple sites, such as brownfields, Superfund and other hazardous waste sites, abandoned parcels, landfills, parking lots and commercial or industrial roofs, depending on the technology.
The tools and a podcast by the Assistant Administrator for EPA’s Office of Solid Waste and Emergency Response on the solar and wind decision trees are now available on EPA’s website at: http://www.epa.gov/renewableenergyland.
4. Interactive Map to Reduce Bird Mortality From Wind Development
(www.abcbirds.org) – A new, interactive web-based map, created by American Bird Conservancy (ABC) is available, and it has the potential to dramatically reduce bird impacts from wind turbines. Open the map. Using Google Earth as a platform, the map highlights more than 2,000 locations in the United States where birds are likely to be particularly vulnerable to impacts from wind energy development. Key sites are colored either orange or red to indicate their relative importance to birds. Birds can be impacted by wind power both through direct collisions and by displacement from nesting, foraging or transit areas. The map addresses both of these issues by identifying both concentrated migratory flight paths and key habitat locations. The map also provides extensive background data for each location, including details of ownership, habitats, land use, bird species and conservation issues.
A recent study published in 2011 in the online, peer-reviewed journal of the Public Library of Science indicates there is approximately 3,500 GW of wind potential on already disturbed lands in the United States, more than ten times the Department of Energy’s national goal for wind power generation by 2030. By focusing on these disturbed lands and avoiding high-priority bird sites depicted on the map, the wind industry can help minimize its impact on birds.
The sites depicted on the map as polygons include:
- ABC-designated Globally Important Bird Areas (IBAs) – more than 500 sites,
- high-use Key Migration Corridors – 21 corridors depicted,
- U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service designated Critical Habitat locations for 18 endangered bird species – more than 1,000 individual locations depicted,
- broader Key Habitat Areas that indicate range strongholds and provide data on 50+ Red WatchList birds of high conservation concern,
- priority Marine Important Bird Areas where seabirds and waterfowl congregate to forage, primarily outside the nesting season – 10 areas depicted and
- concentration areas for Bald and Golden Eagles – 25 stronghold areas depicted.
The map provides the option to download points showing locations of more than 2,000 additional IBAs identified by the National Audubon Society and its chapters down to a state level. The map also enables the user to view locations of nearly 80,000 proposed wind turbines and meteorological towers (wind testing devices), and links to an average wind speed map showing the relative potential for wind energy development across different regions of the United States.
Additional or updated data will be added to the map as it becomes available. In 2009, prior to the recent and ongoing major expansion of the wind industry in the United States, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimated that 440,000 birds were already being killed each year by collisions with wind turbines. This number is expected to grow significantly as wind development is built-out across the nation.
5. USACE Updated 2012 National Wetland Plant List
(www.usace.army.mil) – The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) in partnership with other federal agencies announced today the release of the updated National Wetland Plant List (NWPL). This national list of wetland plants by species and their wetland ratings provides general botanical information about wetland plants and is used extensively by federal and state agencies, the scientific and academic communities, and the private sector in wetland delineations and the planning and monitoring of wetland mitigation and restoration sites. The list is available at http://wetland_plants.usace.army.mil.
In the early 1980s, the four primary federal agencies with responsibilities for wetlands – USACE, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) – realized the importance of utilizing plants and soils as indicators for wetland delineation purposes. The agencies agreed to assemble panels of wetland ecologists and botanists to review and revise a national wetland plant list for the U.S. and U.S. territories. The newly released NWPL will replace the FWS 1988 National List of Plant Species that Occur in Wetlands.
Administration of NWPL was transferred from FWS to USACE in 2006. USACE launched a web-based interagency scientific process and created a website to update the 1988 plant list. Scientific names and ratings for 8,200 wetland plants were updated through the website, which also provided for academic and independent peer reviews of the process, thus resulting in a completed list. The 2012 NWPL will be used in any wetland delineations or determinations performed after June 1, 2012. It may be used in delineation/determination forms prior to that date and should be referenced on any data forms used in the wetland delineation/determination if used.
The NWPL announcement was published in the May 9, 2012, Federal Register and is available for download. For more information on the USACE Regulatory Program, please visit: www.usace.army.mil/Missions/CivilWorks/RegulatoryProgramandPermits.aspx.